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Stahl director sees strong future for automotive leather

The director of sustainability at leather chemicals manufacturer Stahl, Mike Tomkin, gave a presentation to the International Council of Tanners in Hong Kong at the end of March on the subject of the automotive leather business.

“We see a very exciting future for automotive leather,” Mr Tomkin said, “but also a few threats, and it’s important to pay attention to these threats and address them.”

He said Stahl’s information from tracking this market is that 150,000 hides per day go into making automotive leather around the world now, which means this segment of the leather industry is 15 times the size it was in its early days 35 years ago. And he explained that the main reason for this growth is the amount of money car original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are able to make from putting leather into the interiors of their vehicles.

“They are able to charge around €2,000 more if the car has a leather interior,” he said, “when the extra cost for the OEM is probably €200 or €300. This represents a fantastic margin and this is the real driving force for growth in automotive leather.”

And while Stahl firmly believes this growth will continue, Mr Tomkin said that possible threats to it include the need for the leather industry to put across effectively to OEMs the sustainability credentials of leather, including information on the progress tanners have made in traceability, in reducing the presence of volatile organic compounds in the chemicals they use and in making sure leather can make a contribution to the recyclability of motor cars.

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